Context and Background Adequate context and an explanation of background can be essential in correctly translating or explaining a word or phrase. Being thorough with your original post can help get the best possible results in the shortest possible time. Below is a brief, by no means exhaustive, explanation of these terms.
a. The most basic meaning of context is a complete sentence (vs. just a word or phrase in isolation). A given term out of context could be a noun, a verb, an adjective, contemporary slang, a 16th Century profanity, and so on. Dictionary.com gives 33 meanings for screw (click here), not including Lady Macbeth’s “Screw your courage to the sticking place.”
b. Sometimes the confusion is as simple as a spelling error in the original text (the “source”) that becomes obvious in context, so it may be helpful to include not just one sentence, but what came before and after. Example: One person wanted to know the meaning of “ouipo”, which doesn’t exist. The whole sentence was “He aquí su ouipo,” which is still meaningless. When he finally posted the entire paragraph, it turned out to be a packing list for the ”equipo” he had ordered.
a. The Source: Word usage can vary significantly depending on the type of source: a /line of dialogue from a movie, a Rap lyric, a medical report, a computer manual, a classic text. Country (Spain vs. Mexico, U.S. vs. U.K.) can be relevant.
b. Target Audience. Are you writing a speech, putting together an advertising flyer, etc. And is it intended for educators at a conference, people of minimal formal education at a job-site, etc.
c. Purpose. Why are you asking? Is it to resolve a doubt for yourself (which means an explanation may be sufficient) or do you need the best way to translate a particular point (for a formal paper) or romantically (for a poem or song)?
d. .Register and Time Period. When was it written? The same term may have different meanings as used by Shakespeare or Cervantes in 1600, vs. Bush or Chavez in 2007. Register refers to level, the difference between formal, colloquial and slang. Similarly, there is a difference between chingado, fregado y maldito, between damn, hell, and jolly hockey sticks.
Lastly, there is no fixed rule as to what or how much context to provide. Please use your judgment, and try to put yourself in the shoes of those reading your post. As a general rule, too much is better than not enough. (*The one exception is when quoting from a copyrighted source. See Rule #4.)